</Art Editions In Russia Face New Challenges Following Year Of Growth>
author: Katya Ceppel
photo: Lisa Merkulova

For both emerging artists and collectors, art editions serve as a good entrance into the contemporary art business. Lower prices and replicability do not necessarily mean that the quality would be poor. Multiples are an accessible form of art, and that is more of an advantage rather than a reason for skepticism. In Russia, art editions have been on the path to become one of the most prosperous fields of art and even institutions have started to dip their toes into this market. In 2020, the Garage Museum for Contemporary Art launched its own series of limited editions produced by Russian and international contemporary artists. Last year, Winzavod Contemporary Art Center held Win-Win, a contemporary art market mainly offering accessible art, including a large variety of multiples. The second edition of the market netted good sales and Winzavod held a third, New Year edition, by the year’s end.

Katerina Savina, Souyz Pechat' founder

“Currently, many participants who were involved in multiple arts are in shock because of what is going on, as well as the entire cultural community. Many people have moved to other countries. Printing anything is becoming very expensive - the exchange rate is going through the roof, paper is like gold now, consumables are either very expensive, or they simply cannot be found yet. I think it's a very dubious exercise to predict anything for the future now. It is the time to deal with the present,” Katerina Savina, who is the owner of Soyuz Pechat’, a community of niche print shops and publishers.

Soyuz Pechat’ used to occupy its own production and exhibition space at Winzavod Contemporary Art Center in Moscow. It has been printing many art editions to support emerging artists, many of whom are not represented by the galleries and thus are often on the outskirts of the mainstream contemporary art in Russia. The community of niche print shops has held many exhibitions, markets and industry events. However in March Soyuz Pechat’ announced that it had to shut down due to the unfavorable market conditions.

“Our project is closing down because we no longer see the present as an opportunity to exhibit and do contemporary independent publishing projects. It was originally our main task to help each other in publishing, to create a cultural community around us. Now we are just trying to preserve its vestiges and every day we wake up and read the news and figure out how to continue activities in the Russian Federation,” Savina noted.

Whether Soyuz Pechat’ will be resurrected again largely depends on the climate in Russian society, the founder concluded. As of now, it only has a corner to sell its prints at Winzavod’s book shop.
Anna Dial, artist and curator of the ‘Unknown Person’ project, has also confirmed that the industry experiences difficulties, however believes that the art editions would remain popular in Russia in light of the decreasing purchasing power of the public as fewer people can afford to buy paintings.

“There is a demand in society for accessible and not elitist art, so art editions meet that demand quite well. The new generation can't imagine their environment with bare walls. Zine or prints, for example, can already be afforded by many people. However, multiple art is anyway connected with production processes and materials and that’s why we have to walk a line in the conditions of market crisis.

For example, despite the increase in paper prices, our micro-publishers continue working on new books. One of them will be released soon by open call.

Recently, we have lost gallery space, so collective print publishing is our only environment and community where we help a large number of authors’ voices to be heard. If the financial situation is difficult, we would print a new book at home, we even bought paper in advance. Some of our editions are already made on recycled material, sewn by hand. Some zines are made in micro-format to save paper,” Dial told ODRA.

Artist Alexandra Syrenova hopes that in the coming years art editions would replace mass market design solutions. “In the current situation, we should remember that our souls long for art during a crisis. Moreover, in terms of the financial crisis and inability to invest in currency, art prints could gain popularity among investors. So, there is a high chance of an upswing in the print industry. However, the main issue is technical supply for printing, but as we have done before, we shall overcome these temporary difficulties. I also hope that in 5-10 years prospective art prints will be popular not in the investment and collection context, but for physiological comfort and just as flat decoration, replacing mass market design solutions,” Syrenova opined in a comment for ODRA.